Organize Your Writing Space

After a very long hiatus, I am back to blogging. I blog occasionally with a group of writers called the GROG. When Sherri Jones Rivers, a fellow grogger, asked me to give her some ideas for organizing her writing space, I gave her a tour of my space. Click here to find out how I organize my office.

Writing Hacker Tip #2: Double Duty Reading

I love doing things efficiently, and I’m always looking for new ways to do more work in less time or at least do double duty with one task. I’m sharing some of my crazy writing hacker tips, and I hope you will share some with me too.

Double Duty Reading (a.k.a. Killing Two Birds With One Stone)

One of the things I love about being a children’s writer is that it’s required to read children’s books. Same goes for being an elementary school teacher. And a parent. I’m lucky enough to be all three. So it’s no wonder I pretty much ONLY read children’s books. An occasional adult novel will sneak it, but it has to come highly recommended.

Last week I talked about market research and reading professional magazines and how I keep up with that. But there is another side to market research—knowing the market and what’s being published.

Our latest library stack

Our latest library stack

So, I try to expose my kids at home and my students at school to the latest and greatest children’s books. I try to read books so I can recommend them to my students. But all of this day job work and parenting work is also doing something else—feeding my writing work.

Have no time for market research? Read the books to your kids that you want to study yourself. Lately, my son’s bedtime stories have been interesting point of view picture books and concrete poetry picture books. He’s pretty happy and I’m learning something about craft.


Writing Hacker Tip #1: Researching the Market

I’m a big fan of learning tips for making jobs easier. I like reading through cool tips on LifeHacker or this packing post by Michael Hyatt. I’m a “behind the scenes” junkie. I want to know what works for people and why. While I may not do things exactly the same way, I often find that I learn something I can use. So I’m going to share a few of my own writing hacker tips, and I hope  you’ll share some with me.

Researching the Market

I love getting magazines about writing. I subscribe to many newsletter and magazines. The problem is: when to catch up on reading them and mine them for their great information?

I’m busy with my full-time job, kids, and actually writing. When do I have time to read craft magazines?

Take Your Research on the Road

I’m really not a Thirty-One consultant, but I find this product works well for me. I also have seen metal and plastic products similar to this at Staples (or any other office supply store).


Research on the go

Research on the go

As I get newsletters and magazines, I print them (if I get them digitally) or put my latest copies in this mobile file organizer. It fits in my car or in my trunk. It hasn’t turned over—yet. If I have a few minutes before yoga class starts, or I’m waiting for a kid to get out of practice or activities, I read an article or two. If it’s something I want to keep, I mark it or write in the margins. I tear it out of the magazine and stick it in a file folder in the organizer.

I find it helpful if my notes to myself give me a *hint* as to why I marked it. Sometimes it’s several weeks before I process them (more on this in a minute). For example, I read about a publisher that I thought would be perfect for my friend, Bekah. So I wrote in the margin: “Bekah.” When I went through the file, I knew I needed to e-mail Bekah about the publisher. If it’s an editor or agent that mentions something about a particular topic they want to see, I write the title of my pertinent manuscript in the margin, so I can submit it after doing some more research. It saves me from staring at it and looking at it wondering why I saved it.

I’m also not too worried if I rip apart my magazines. I’ve always torn out what I wanted to keep and recycled the rest. If you like to keep your magazines together, then you can use sticky notes for this part.


Processing the Notes

Every few weeks, or once a month, I take the folder of “keepers” out of my car. Then I go through each one. Often, it’s a magazine, publisher, or an agent I want to research. Sometimes it’s a contest I want to enter. I take the time to go through each one and put it on a to-do list, write a deadline on the calendar, enter publisher or agent information on a spreadsheet, or send an e-mail to a friend.

Each task takes a short amount of time. I spend my big chunks of time writing. I spend the little chunks of time working on things like researching the market.


How do YOU fit in market research? Do you have  cool tip about your process? Leave me a comment. I love “behind the scenes” information.